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New look, new goal

RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN
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ART Lalit Kala Akademi will soon be the one stop spot for art display of international stature. RANA SIDDIQUI ZAMAN

ELEGANT AND FUNCTIONAL Sudhakar Sharma at the refurbished library, along with a copy of “Modern Art; Revolution in Printing.” Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
ELEGANT AND FUNCTIONAL Sudhakar Sharma at the refurbished library, along with a copy of “Modern Art; Revolution in Printing.” Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

L alit Kala Gallery is wearing a deserted look these days; but one can find workers running around, noting down minute details inside the library or busy in the administrative block.Come Commonwealth Games and the entire Lalit Kala premises would match any international venue for art exhibitions and its well-stocked library will house the rarest of rare material related to art.

The renovation of Lalit Kala Akademi's five important wings, the administrative block, gallery area, Kaustubh auditorium, guest house and board room, is being done in three phases on a war footing. And it's not only the structural changes that are likely to surprise the viewers but also changes within.

The gallery (in 1645 squaremeter area) with a new brick look , for instance, will get another floor in the basement. Its three floors have already been refurbished with soundless, scratch-less Pergo flooring , and the walls are lined with numerous Australian strings to hold several paintings at a time and at a desirable distance with adjustable stoppers. It is now well-equipped with German wall-washer neutral lights which can rotate 360 degrees to highlight all areas of the work displayed. The walls of the gallery have been replaced by single ‘toughened' glass (which is stronger than wood) for perfect visibility from the outer side of the gallery. “This is done to invite any international show of mammoth stature which wasn't possible earlier,” says Sudhakar Sharma, Secretary, adding, “because of poor security and surveillance system; insurance companies wouldn't let international artists do their shows in Indian galleries. Lalit Kala would be the only one in the country to meet all international standards of security, surveillance, display area, lights and walking space now. We have very ambitious plans for the outer area too. With greenery and landscaping at the fore front, we will join all the three academies (Sahitya Kala Parishad, Lalit Kala and Sangeet Natak Akdemi) from the one underground passage area.” The spacious library too has got a new look. It has over 10, 000 books on art from across the world. Its latest acquisition is a two-feet high, 50 kg book called “Modern Art; Revolution in Printing” published by Art Media, Italy. This limited edition volume was bought for Rs. 3 lakhs and encompasses the iconic figurative works of European masters of 19 {+t} {+h} and 20 {+t} {+h} century including Picasso, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet , and Fredric Bazille. . The library user will have separate internet/wi-fi and locker facility too.

Affordable prints

One of the most interesting features of the library is its “Canvas Reproduction” section. Says its photo officer, Dinesh Kumar, “Here we can reproduce as many faithful canvas prints of the artists' works as they want. With 44 inches width and corresponding length , the prints on the archival paper look the replica of the actual canvas. And it doesn't cost the artists more than Rs.6000 per print.” But, cautions Sharma, “We are not going commercial with it. It is a service to the artists whose clients/friends would like to have his/her works but can't afford them.”

The Museum Shop outside Kaustubh Auditorium too has been given new look and it houses rare publications/journals from the time the gallery started in 1954 . The area has rotating display boards with works of important artists like Aara, Somnath Hore, Ram Kinkar Baij etc. Affordable souvenirs like mugs with paintings (Rs.50) and prints (Rs.500) of (for instance) rare Bagh Murals of Madhya Pradesh (486 A.D.) and wall paintings of Kerala's protected heritage palaces like Mattancherry , Padmanabhapuram and Krishnapuram palaces is sure to entice an art lover.

The entire administrative block has been refurbished too with the walls designed to display art works. A uniform colour scheme of subdued cream, rust and lemon is used for an international feel.

Interestingly, there is no “battery of officers but a very small workaholic staff,” as Sharma says who have given their best for the new look. The renovation has cost Lalit Kala Rs. 9 crore. NBCC which is doing the renovation will also be responsible for post-refurbishing care.

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